Thursday, October 8, 2015
It's National Poetry Day in the UK, a celebration of poetry in all its forms involving readings, national radio, and even (praise be) television. What to post on the English Buildings blog to mark these celebrations? Wordsworth's Dove Cottage in Grasmere? Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford? I've decided on a reprise (with a different photograph) of a building I posted way back in 2008 when this blog was just getting into its stride: Prospect Cottage, the home of film-maker Derek Jarman, set on the shingle at Dungeness. I've chosen it, as the sun comes out here in the Cotswolds to illuminate the British autumn, because this wooden house is adorned with lines, themselves picked out in cut wooden letters, from John Donne's poem, 'The Sunne Rising': 'Busie old foole, unruly Sunne, Why dost thou thus, Through windows and through curtaines call on us? Must to thy motions lovers' seasons runne?’
The letters that make up the poem, the same colour as the black walls of the cottage, need strong sunlight on them to be clearly visible and readable, so that the sun itself enhances the effect of this poem about the sun. It feels right, not just because of today's sunshine, but also because it seems appropriate for Jarman, a man who lived for the effects of light on celluloid, for whom light, as it were, was meat, drink, and inspiration. Sadly, Jarman went blind towards the end of his life. Cruel as this was for a film-maker (as for who not?) he took his blindness bravely. Perhaps he knew the consoling words of the great blind Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges. Borges, a book-lover who landed the enviable job of head of his country's National Library, reflected in a poem about the 'splendid irony' that 'Granted me books and blindness at one touch'. Borges also told us that we should not fear blindness, because 'It is like watching a slow sunset.'